A recurring theme I see among child abuse survivors is been taken advantage of by others. This is an issue that I have wrestled with throughout my life, although I have made marked progress in the last few years. I used to think that, if I was kind to others, then they would be kind to me. I treated others as I wanted to be treated, but I did not get the same treatment in return. It took me a long time to understand why not.
It was all an issue with my inability to set boundaries in relationships. Because I was so willing to give of myself in relationships, I was easy prey for those who were looking to take advantage of me. I would be a rich woman if I had a dollar for each time someone spent time with me just to use me and then kicked me to the curb when I finally built up the courage to say, “Enough!” More often than not, I did this by separating myself from the other person rather than having a confrontation.
My therapist told me that my homework every single week was working on setting boundaries. I have come a long way. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, hub asked me to go get him a refill at Wendy’s. I looked at him like he was nuts and said, “No!” I used to get him refills all the time. I didn’t know it was okay to say no to him, so I would routinely go wait in line to get him a refill while my French fries got cold. The other day, I simply said no because I didn’t want to do it – How freeing is that??
Now, don’t get me wrong – I do plenty of nice things for hub. In fact, I am writing this blog entry on a Sunday afternoon at a local “bounce place” while my kid and his two friends are bouncing on a bunch of inflatables. I took all three for the entire afternoon (four hours), and hub is lounging around the house right now and probably even taking a long nap. So, I do nice things for him. However, I don’t have to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, to be in this relationship. That would make me his servant or slave, not his wife.
Any relationship that does not give you the freedom to say, “No,” is a dysfunctional one. In any relationship, you will sometimes be the giver, but there also needs to be room for you to be the receiver as well. If you are always giving, that means that the other person is always taking. That is not okay. You deserve to be in a reciprocal relationship where you are valued for who you are, not for what you do.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt